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Archive for February, 2008

The European Union is an embryonic supranational political entity.  What does this mean?

The first thing to notice about the term supranationalism is that it involves the concept of nationalism.  In other words, it is rooted in collectivism.  Unlike internationalism, however, supranationalism does not hold that the solution to the friction between national collectives is a co-operative association. It advocates the institution of an overarching, subordinating political authority that sacrifices the goals of the smaller national collectives to a larger organic entity, in this case Europe.

Perversely, the advocacy of this position is rooted in the recognition that collectivism kills. Whether it is nineteenth century French or Austrian imperialism, or twentieth century German National Socialism, Italian Fascism, or Russian Communism, the result is the same: war, conquest, oppression.  Supranationalists are willing to accept the overwhelming historical case against national collectivism, however they see it as a problem of scope, not of substance. To them, the implementation of collectivism along national lines does not subsume the individual to a large enough collective to prevent him from engaging in his natural, predatory “selfish” behavior.  In fact it seems to facilitate it, by providing those with unharnessed predatory proclivities with the national instruments of war.

To stop man’s supposedly innately destructive character from actualizing itself, the supranationalists propose a broader and stricter form of collectivism.  Internationalism, in their view, is too lax. It doesn’t have the mechanisms necessary to force aggressive regimes to sacrifice their ambitions to international consensus.  This is especially so because it doesn’t have a way of coercing those nations which pledge to stop agressors to do so on a purely altruistic basis. Supranationalism, by contrast, involves such a mechanism — a coercive apparatus that penetrates and overrides national governments. 

At the present time this mechanism is in its infancy.  The European Union budget is about 1/8th that of the British Government, and about 1/20th that of the US government.  And half the budget is dedicated to agricultural subsidies to boot.  So it’s a “small” government.  Still, the European Parliament has representation by population, rather than by country, and it has growing legislative power.  It is also has an expanding executive power as part of the European Common Foreign Security Policy–which aspires to supplant NATO (if only!).  The European Court of Justice in 2005 ruled that EU Law takes precedence over national law for member states.

It’s hardly surprising to find that national politicians are often at odds with the EU, and especially its courts.  Nor is it surprising that a major issue relating to the latest round of attempts to expand EU power has been the question of secession.  For a “United States of Europe” to come about, a new allegiance has to develop more fully in people’s minds: Europism.

(Continued in Part 3.)

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My students and I recently completed the History of Europe in the A First History for AdultsTM program.  In that course, we traced the story of Europe from the Fall of the Roman Empire to the formation of the European Union. 

It isn’t a pretty picture.

The ending, which I refer to as the “European Subordinacy” (mostly to America) has generated a cultural backlash rooted in the only outlook that Europeans seem to know: collectivism.  Since this cultural coping strategy is now continental in scope, I call it “Europism”  (or “Europeism” — I don’t don’t know the grammatical convention on how to form an “ism,” when the noun stem ends in an “e”.  With the “e” in it though, it’s just too tempting to pronounce it “Europ-ee-ism”.  ;-) )

Europism is rooted in the dismal historical record of European people living as separate, antagonistic tribal and national groups.  From the earliest time of the barbarian migrations, to the nineteenth century and twentieth centuries when Germany, Italy, and the various Slavic nations were formed, Europeans have had virtually no grasp of “man qua man.” They’ve always seen themselves as man qua Briton, or man qua Salian Frank, and later man qua Aryan, and man qua Serb, Bosnian, Croat…

This myopic outlook has proven to be a terrible handicap, contributing to centuries of warfare.  For the separate German tribes especially, the multiplicity of allegiances was crippling.  Bavarians, Franconians, Saxons, etc. all feared and hated each other.  Only a greater enemy could ever bring them together, and when that enemy was dealt with, their petty feudal jealousies were reactivated. Then, in the wake of the Reformation, when man qua Austrian vs. man qua Prussian, came to mean man qua Catholic Austrian vs. man qua Calvinist Prussian, and man qua Englishman vs. man qua Frenchman was exacerbated to become man qua Anglican Englishman vs. man qua Catholic Frenchman, the impediment of collective self-identification only intensified.

It got so bad that Europeans were killing each other almost non-stop in some quarter of the continent during the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries.

The French Revolution, which many thought was an expression of the Enlightenment, and thus universalist in nature, was in fact thoroughly infused with collectivism as well.  The big question of its theorists was not the question of the unalienable rights of individuals, but the question, “who is the state?”–the choices being only the king and the nobility, the clergy, and the peasantry–all collectives.  In its Declaration, the rights of the individual are always subordinated to the will of the nation.

When Napoleon violently exported this collectivism to Europe, the reaction among its collectivist-minded people was reactionary nationalism.  The archetypal intellect of this period was Fichte, whose “Addresses to the German Nation” and other philosophical works appealed to the divisive ethnic outlook of the Germans.  To be German was to embrace the subjective greatness of one’s collective identity in answer to French ideas and aggression.

This outlook, of a collectively defined self vs. a collective “other” was disastrous.  It yielded the greatest wars in the history of the world.  Not surprisingly then, even while this period was underway, those who grasped its dangerous nature but at the same time could not see a real solution proposed a series of work-arounds.  First, in an attempt to prevent ethnic myopia from causing wars, the Europeans tried to draw their borders along national lines to reduce the friction between collectives.  If the Germans could just live with the Germans, and the Hungarians and Italians could be independent of the Austrians–if collective “self-determination” could be implemented, then peace might be achieved.

This supposed ideal was a flop.  The Germans wanted a “GrossDeutschland”.  Their “self-determination” was to be achieved at the expense of others. The Slavs wanted pan-Slavism, which inspired the Russians to regular aggression in the southeastern Europe.  The French, Brits, and Russians each had their own beliefs of ethnic superiority driving them to ever more expansive empires and into constant conflict with each other and other the collectives arising throughout the world as the ideology of nationalism spread like a pandemic. 

Internationalism proved (in the “League of Nations”) and continues to prove (in the UN) no means of harnessing mutually antagonistic collectives. So the Europeans have turned to the only thing they know–another kind of collective–in the hope that size matters.  They have created the “European Union”–a fledgling supranational entity.

(Continued in Part 2.)

(Find out more about A First History for AdultsTM, Part 2 – The Story of Europe, here.)

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For once, it’s the men who are bearing the brunt of Saudi sex police activities.

Yesterday, some 57 men were apparently arrested for “flirting” outside a mall in Mecca, according to an Associated Press report in the International Herald and Tribune.

What strikes me about this story, in the light of recent bad press for Saudi Arabia, is just how much the “Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice” has been in the news lately.  Everyone in the West knows that Islam advocates “jihad.”  Most can tell you that there is a difference between “Shi’ite” and “Sunni,” even if they don’t know what it is, and now most Westerners know of “dhimmi” as well, but given that the Saudi religious police is so active, and that foreigners like American businesswoman Yara surely won’t be able to keep themselves out of trouble in the kingdom’s Starbucks and MacDonalds eateries, how long will it be before “muttawa” (which means “enforcer,” and which is Saudi slang for an officer of the religious police) becomes another Islamic watchword.

I’ll be looking specifically at Saudi Arabia in Lecture 8 of my series on The Islamist Entanglement.  (Individual lectures in the series are available for only $20!)

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The HistoryAtOurHouse blog, home to news about the world’s premier homeschooling history curriculum for children, features the following recent articles:

 Give Me Liberty, or You’ll Get Death!  — an analysis of the great painting of Patrick Henry before the House of Burgesses  arguing against the Stamp Act.

When History Beats Hannah Montana — a heartening story about how when kids enjoy history, they talk about it on the way to ballet class!

Homeschooling Book of the Week: The Best Historical Atlas of American History — an illustration of the quality of the American Heritage Pictorial Atlas of American History (and of the terrible quality of other atlases and American history textbooks).

The Value of a Good Story — a tale about why I love teaching history, in relation to the wonderful painting “A Reading from Homer” by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema.

Enjoy!

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My latest course, The Islamist Entanglement, starts tomorrow, and I couldn’t be more excited.  It will be hands-down my best course ever!

So if you’ve heard about Powell History’s unique content and method, and clients’ rave reviews (and here too!), don’t you owe it to yourself to try one of my lectures?!

The great thing about this offering is that that’s all you have to do: try one.  You don’t have to commit to the whole course — a steal at $249, but still a good chunk of change.  Instead pay the discounted rate of only $20 for a single lecture.

I guarantee you’ll like what you hear.

And then you can take another one at the same discounted rate (limit of two!).

Then, when you’re ready to commit to truly learning history for yourself, you can can use your payments as installments on the full price of the course.

There’s never been an easier way to gain an independent knowledge of the past!

CLICK HERE NOW, to get started!  Lectures start tomorrow, February 20th!

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If Yara’s hubby wants to make her feel better about her strip-searching ordeal at the hands of the Saudi Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, he’ll have to go with chocolates, because roses are out!

The same commission that arrested Yara for sitting alone with a man in a Starbucks now wants to discourage men and women from straying from the path by putting the kibosh on Valentine’s Day–which seems strange because putting a “kibosh” on something may derive from a Turkish practice of talking nonsense, or “bosh,” and ever since the Turks tried to force the Arabians to put the “ki-bosh” on slave trading in 1857, the Saudis haven’t much liked the Turks, Turkish Delight, Turkish ideas, or Turkish-derived words! ;-)

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In this FOXNEWS story, American businesswoman Yara (who doesn’t want her last name revealed because she of “safety concerns”–i.e. she fears the Saudi government), confesses to having bragged about womens’ freedom to none other than Neil Bush–one of the president’s brothers.

The article quotes her as saying, “I was boasting about Riyadh, telling him it doesn’t deserve its bad reputation…I told him I never experienced any harassment. I’d had no trouble as a woman. It was business as usual…,” then “When I was arrested, it was like going through an avalanche,” she said. “All of my beliefs were completely destroyed.”

I hate to say this Yara, but you got what you deserved.  As do any Americans that do business in Saudi Arabia or any other thoroughly irrational culture and get burned. 

Recently, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia blamed the lack of rain in the country on the sinfulness of the people.  (Read that story here.) If that isn’t a sufficient cultural barometer, consider that there are no democratic institutions in the country or the infamous case  of the Girl from Qatif.  Mysticism and despotism are rampant.

That there are some thirty Starbucks in Riyadh may have contributed to Yara’s delusion of normalcy, but the truth is you have to be incredibly evasive to leave America to work in a place like Saudi Arabia–kind of like Starbucks, which has removed “Saudi Arabia” from the list of international locations that it admits to working in (as of today, February 10th–a mistake by a misguided technician, I’m sure.)

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I turns out the woman who was arrested by the Saudi police for sitting with a man in a Starbucks is American!  Her “great sin” was to sit with a male business partner in a booth at Starbucks in order to enjoy the convenience of wireless Internet.

Here’s more on the story from the TimesOnline.

If this had happened in the nineteenth century, an American warship would be dispatched to the area–as in the case of the arrest and imprisonment of Julio Santos by Ecuador in 1885–with the threat of force backing up an ultimatum demanding immediate restitution.

As the above Times article suggests, however, I predict that the American government will have nothing to say about this incident.

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What is more normal in America that having a business meeting at a Starbucks?

At the next table, a gaggle of stroller moms will be chatting away after a walk-run.

At the table beyond a group of students will be studying for a college exam.

And next to them a young couple will meet for the first time, after matching up on-line in twenty-nine categories of compatibility!

Starbucks is exactly the kind of place free people love to congregate, for every kind of wonderful life-promoting consensual social activity that they take for granted.

But they shouldn’t do so today.  Every Starbucks in America should be empty, in protest of the fact that Starbucks chooses to do business in Saudi Arabia, where if a businesswoman meets with a man that she’s not related to in a Starbucks, she can be arrested by the “Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice” and strip-searched! (See this AFP story on GoogleNews.)

To do business in a country that oppresses its people is to sanction that regime.  By setting up shop in a Saudi mall, you’re saying “Go ahead, rape that teen-aged girl, and when you’re done, enjoy an iced-latte to regain your energy.  We believe that your country is a valid place for us to make a Star-buck.”

What’s the point of selling “fair trade” coffee in your American stores, if you’re going to do that?!

Don’t get me wrong.  I love Starbucks. It’s a great American success story.  But the idea that they are serving some agent of the Saudi religious police the same tall wet Capuccino that I would have had today makes my blood boil!

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One look into those lively eyes should convince you that this is no typical Middle Eastern leader.  This is Mustafa Kemal “Ataturk”–father of the Turks, the founder of the modern Turkish republic, whose remarkable legacy, Kemalism, is the only modern secular national ideology holding its own in the Middle East. 

In a heartening display of Turkish secularism that bodes well for the future of that country as many as 100,000 Kemalists rallied today in Ankara .  The rally was held to protest a government decision to lift an Islamic headscarf ban at universities, most of which are public institutions. 

The protest was sparked by a recent government initiative to allow the return of religious garb in the country’s centers of higher learning, a project being pushed by  Turkey’s current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has strong Islamist sympathies.

To date, based on Turkey’s strict policy of separation of church and state (a Kemalist program), Islamic headscarfs, among the most recognizable symbols of religious submission in the world, have been inadmissible in the country’s universities, and with good reason. In a rights-respecting culture, an individual’s choice of head-dress would surely be unrestricted.  The issue would fall under the heading of freedom of religion.  But in a country where some segment of the population has had to fight every day to protect itself from Islamist religious oppression for over 80 years, and where the military unseated the government most recently in the “post-modern coup” of 1997, in order to protect secularism, the ban is justified.  Public universities at the very least must be sanctuaries from Islam, which otherwise permeates the culture, and which–in its traditional or fundamentalist implementation–would definitely violate women’s rights.

At least the countries intellectual leaders, the deans of various universities, voiced unequivocal support for the ban before a parliamentary commission.  “Turkey is secular and will remain secular,” shouted some of them at the end of their meeting, as the International Herald and Tribune reports.  (How many deans of American universities, I wonder, would be so passionately committed to such a thoroughly Western ideal?)

Unfortunately, that the current government, which was democratically elected, has widespread support to pursue this agenda is the worrisome thing.  It means that the contest between Kemalism and Islamism in Turkey is far from over, and that more military coups may be needed to defend secularism.

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